I learned some behavior modification techniques early in my parenting career that have served me well over the years. One is to extinguish undesired conduct by ignoring and not talking about inconsequential behavior, thus reducing the negative attention granted and causing the child to seek attention in other ways. Tom Wagner’s suggestion ("Talking about suicide won't solve the problem," Jan. 25) that we handle suicide in this manner is very alarming.
Suicide is not inconsequential behavior that can be extinguished by ignoring it. Rather, it is a response to severe mental and emotional pain. Survivors, each and every one, will tell you they did not want to take their lives, but that the pain became too much to handle. Wagner’s position is akin to us ignoring the cries of pain from those suffering with cancer in an effort to reduce unwanted behavior. We would never do that, and we must begin to understand and accept that mental illness is just that: an illness that is to be treated with compassion and respect.
Talking about suicide in the media, at schools, in churches and elsewhere is sometimes the only way a person entertaining suicide ideation begins to understand he or she is not alone and that the condition can be helped. In my opinion, talking is the key solution that leads to hope, healing and restoration.